Are goals essential for a successful workout program? To justify the hard work of training do you need something to work toward?
I thought that was an obvious “yes” until Thursday evening’s Fit-tastic training session. (Quick background: I joined Fit-tastic, a 12-week training program for runners that you can read more about here, in September to help me prepare for the Monster Dash 5k on Oct. 25. An avid runner in my 20s, knee and back issues when I hit 30 forced me to look elsewhere for my adrenaline fix. Now, at 53, I’m back — at least for one race.)
I was running with Shannan Brooks when the topic of goals came up. “So, what are you training for?” I asked. My segment of the Fit-tastic group consists of more experienced runners; Some are training for 10ks, most for half marathons.
“Well …” she said, thinking it over. “Nothing specific, I guess.” This struck me as odd because I’ve always needed a carrot to train. The next 10k when I was a runner, the next mountain bike race, my current motivator-of-choice. It struck me as doubly odd, since Shannan, who is 30, ran track in high school: the mile and two miles.
She’ll probably do the Monster Dash, probably the Old Reliable 10k as well. Earlier, she had told me she’d gotten back into running for the reasons a lot of folks take it up: to lose weight. She’s since added stress relief and a medium for meditation to the list. “I could go on and on about what I get out of running,” she’d said.
OK, I could understand that. Then I noticed she wasn’t wearing a watch. For me, going on a run without a watch would be about the same as going out without my running shorts. “I run better when I don’t know how fast I’m going,” she explained. “I just run the best that I can.”
Not only do I need a down-the-road carrot — that next race — I need next-10-minutes carrot. Our workout Thursday evening was a two-mile warm-up followed by two 15-minute race-pace runs. My goal: Do both runs at a 7:30-per-mile pace. I was all about the stopwatch function on my watch.
Really? No watch, either?
“No. I stopped wearing one a while back.”
No watch, no carrots: No way would that work for me. Yet it was working great for Shannan. She’s lost weight and she’s one of the fastest runners in our group. And she’s been to every twice-weekly 6 p.m. practice I’ve been to, despite having two small kids. No motivational problem there. I pondered this curious phenomenon, but not for too long because I had to check my split time. Different strides for different folks, I reckon.
For those of you who, like me, are driven by clocks and carrots, here’s my goal for the Monster Dash, which is a week from today: 22:30, or slightly less than 7:30 miles. When I started in September, my goal was to finish in less than 24 minutes. I’ve revised that based on how my training has gone, which is pretty good. Which is to say I’ve managed to avoid significant injury.
22:30: That’s my goal, that’s the number I’m hoping to see on my watch next Sunday afternoon.